From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Marriage of Priests
Gerson also testifies that there have been many good men who tried to conquer the flesh, yet with little progress. So, Ambrose is right in saying, “Virginity is a thing that may only be recommended, not commanded; it is voluntary, not obligatory.” If any one would raise the objection that Christ praises those “who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:12), consider also that he is praising those who have that unusual gift of self-control. For he adds, “He who is able to receive this, let him receive it” (ibid.). Impure restraint does not please Christ. We also praise true continence. But now we are disputing about law and those who do not have the gift of continence. This ought to be a matter of liberty, not a rule that sets a snare for the weak.
Pulling It Together: There are those who are able to truly and consistently practice control of the flesh. But if they are not able, if they have not been empowered with restraint by God, then they should marry. This is God’s plan for us—with good reason. Those who hold to a pattern of fleshly behavior will not inherit the kingdom. So we should not require persons, even ministers of the gospel—indeed, especially ministers of the gospel—to be celibate when God has given them the good gift of marriage. Coercing them into celibacy or commanding them to stay celibate when they are not suited for that lifestyle is counter-productive to God’s plan for us—temporally and eternally.
Prayer: Lead me by your Spirit, Lord, that I may daily crucify the flesh. Amen.
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